X’06 Hands-on: Gears of War, Forza 2, Call of Duty 3, Tony Hawk’s Project 8 and more!

Yes, I am a lucky man. I may have caught a nasty cold, but I also had a chance to play some of this year’s biggest titles, weeks before they come out. For those that aren’t familiar with the X’0 events – they’re Microsoft’s annual hands-on press gatherings where they showcase the upcoming holiday line-up. Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first time an X’0 event was held in Toronto. They actually go way back to X’03, which was the first that I attended. I wrote about X’04, but missed X’05. This year, I took my buddy Andrew along who chainsaw’d me in GOW more than a few times. Anyway, on to the good stuff!

Gears of War

…is incredible. It’s everything you’re hoping for, and then some. I’ve been following this game since it was first announced at E3 2005 and have watched every gameplay video, developer interview, trailer, etc. I could get my hands on. I’ve flipped through countless screenshots and read tons of hands-on recollections, but nothing prepared me for just how great GOW really is. I had a chance to play 2 separate builds of the single player campaign. But weighing in at about 10-15 minutes a piece.

Gears of War multiplayer

The controls are rock solid and they’ve done some things that will make you say “why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?” But most importantly, they’re simple. They’re as advanced as GRAW, but using half the buttons. I really don’t know how they got this game to look so damn good.

It runs smooth as butter and shows more detail than anything I’ve seen on any platform. The characters themselves and their armor are just mind blowing. You can see every scratch and hair line fracture – but not only that, they have depth. I’m really glad I picked up an HDTV when I did. Playing GoW in a standard definition TV would be a shame.

Multiplayer is an absolute blast! I don’t recall the last time I had so much fun playing a team deathmatch game. The chainsaw gun will provide hours on end of fun and laughter.

To sum it up, Gears of War is definitely been worth the wait and deserves every bit of hype it’s received. I’ll be picking up the badass black metal tin, Collector’s Edition for sure.

Forza Motorsport 2

Forza 2

Enough said? Needless to say, I was totally, completely, utterly floored when I saw this setup. I was hoping they’d have the racing wheel on the floor, but I didn’t even expect to see Forza 2 there. Let alone, hooked up to the racing wheel! Needless to say, we spent quite a bit of time checking this setup out and talking to the dudes on hand. The game itself was running a little choppy, which we were warned about as soon as we approached the booth. It’s still very early on, so these things are to be expected. We did get some to see some of the new features which included dramatically increased customization (hard to imagine, I know!), extensive vehicle damage, lots more online integration and “possibly” an online marketplace for trading your vehicles.

Oh, and the wheel will be available November 14.

Call of Duty 3

I love (love, love!) the COD series. Well, with the exception of the console versions (not include COD 2 on the Xbox 360) anyway. Which actually had me a little worried as Treyarch, the developer behind Big Red One and Finest Hour are doing COD 3. But from the 10-15 minutes I spent with COD 3, you wouldn’t know it. It felt a lot like COD 2, but with some noticeable differences and enhancements. There’s definitely been a visual upgrade as the characters and environments look fantastic! There’s still lots of big, beautiful clouds of puffy smoke. A fair bit of the environment is destructible, including the grass. It gets trampled as you walk and scorched where grenades blow up. Speaking of grenades – you can cook grenades now and also return enemy grenades. The grenade indicator is still in tact and changes to a hand wrapped around a grenade when you’re able to pick up a live one and toss it back. That will definitely come in handy and I’m sure will lead to many laughs online.

Tony Hawk’s Project 8

I really didn’t have a good chance to play THP8 at X’06. The dude who was demo’ing it was extremely irritating and as I was trying to learn how to do the “Nail a Trick” mode, he was calling out every direction and button like a wild man screaming in my ear. Needless to say, I passed the controller and moved on. But luckily, the demo was released this weekend and I played the shit out of it! Nail a Trick is amazing, but I wonder if it’ll get tired eventually? I still love the “focus” mode, which is almost the same effect minus the independent leg control. It’s super rad to see the series return to it’s roots – you know, skateboarding as apposed to jackass influenced objectives. They’re going for a more realistic style character again, which is also quite nice. Totally can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

Also Worth Mentioning

  • Need for Speed Carbon: I wasn’t overly impressed with the demo. The cars felt like they were sliding on ice. This wasn’t the case at X’06 though, so fingers crossed that the retail version is the same.
  • Viva Pinata: My daughter’s dying to get her hands on this one. Looks like it’ll be a lot of fun for the kids and ladies. I’m sure it will appeal to the Sims fans. It looks absolutely beautiful – like, Kameo beautiful.
  • Superman Returns: It’s a huge open-ended adventure game where you can fly anywhere you please. Pick up pedestrians and strand them on the tops of buildings or toss a car and mow them down. You can also do this awesome ground smash from flight that is just rad. Might actually be pretty fun!

There was a ton of other games on display that I either can’t recall or aren’t worth mentioning (Shadowrun, I’m looking in your direction – aw damn, I just mentioned it). It’s an exciting time for Xbox 360 owners as there is an absolute ton of awesome games and hardware on the horizon.